Consumer advice from UK European Consumer Centre
Do you know who you are dealing with when you buy goods online? Do you know what your consumer rights are? And who is to blame if things go wrong?
These are all questions which consumer advice organisation the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) says consumers should have in mind when they buy goods from online marketplaces this Black Friday.
Andy Allen, UK ECC service director, said:
“Purchases from online marketplaces are a big part of everyday life and account for a large number of complaints we handle on behalf of UK consumers.
“We don’t want consumers to become one of our statistics this Black Friday.”
An online marketplace is a website or platform that enables individuals or businesses to sell goods online. Often these platforms do not actually own the goods being sold.
Sometimes they are not involved in the fulfilment (the process or business of handling and executing customer orders such as packing, shipping or procession checks).
“It’s important for consumers to remember that not only do consumers have fewer rights when they buy from a private seller, compared to if they buy from a business, but their rights are not the same across all online trading platforms. And consumers often don’t know that their rights might be different.
“Consumer have no rights they can use against the online marketplace itself, as any buy made online means that the contract is with the trader and not the marketplace.”
Online marketplace guidelines
The UK ECC offers these guidelines for buying from online marketplaces:
Make sure you know who are you buying from
Online marketplaces will often state who the goods are being sold by and if so, you can often visit the seller’s page. This way you can establish whether it is an individual seller or a business.
Check out your consumer rights for online purchases and ensure you know who is responsible if things go wrong
Your consumer rights are with the seller of the goods, not the marketplace itself. The best way of thinking about this is to imagine you’re in an actual marketplace. If you buy goods from the stallholder, that’s who your rights are with; not the owner of the marketplace.
Research in 2018 (by Citizens Advice and Harris Interactive polling) showed that over 50% of customers don’t know they have fewer rights when they buy from a private seller, compared to if they buy from a business.
“Excellent working condition”
If you buy from a private seller the principle of “buyer beware” applies. This means while the seller can’t misdescribe the item, they can omit information. For example, if a laptop is described as being a silver laptop in “excellent working condition” but it’s faulty, you could ask for your money back. But if “excellent working condition” is missing from the description, you won’t be able to.
Complaints about goods bought from EU traders on online marketplaces account for a significant number of cases dealt with by the UK ECC.
UK consumers asked the UK ECC for help on several hundred occasions in the past six months over a dispute in connection with an online marketplace itself (relating to traders based in a European country outside the UK), as opposed to a dispute just about a product bought online.
The UK ECC advises when buying goods online this Black Friday that consumers should:
- Confirm with the seller when the order will arrive
- Goods should be delivered within 30 days, unless a fixed delivery date is agreed
- If you need to receive a product by a specific time, make a written request to the trader before making the purchase and await confirmation that your request can be accommodated
- If you are buying goods costing more than £100 you could pay on your UK credit card. Under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the credit card provider may be jointly responsible (along with the seller) for resolving any problems
- When buying anything from a distance (online, email, phone or post), the Consumer Contracts Regulations (which came into force on 13 June 2014) mean that consumers have a 14 calendar day cooling-off period, starting as soon as an order is placed and ending 14 days after the goods are received. During this time the contract can be cancelled for any reason, including a change of mind
- Consumers must notify the trader of the cancellation and can then expect to receive a reimbursement within 14 days. Unless otherwise stated in the terms and conditions, the return fee is payable by the consumer.
- If your goods turn out to be faulty you may have the right to a repair or replacement
- The E-Commerce Directive dictates minimum levels of information that a web trader based within Europe must provide to consumers for online purchases, including the name of the trader and geographical address plus email address. An acknowledgement of receipt of the consumer’s order must also be sent
If the worst does happen and either something you ordered doesn’t arrive, maybe the trader sends something else instead or perhaps the goods arrive but don’t work, there are several things you can do to put things right after this Black Friday.
“If there’s a problem with your purchase and you’ve used your credit card to buy goods costing more than £100, section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may mean that the credit card company is equally responsible (along with the seller) for resolving any problems.
“This is free legal protection provided when you buy goods or services with credit cards (including store credit cards) and finance agreements (for items such as cars and household goods).
“And of course, you can always contact the UK European Consumer Centre for free advice and support. You can trust our consumer advisers to put as much effort into helping you as many people put into buying bargains this Black Friday.”
It’s worth noting that in order to use section 75:
- The goods must be priced at over £100 but under £30,000
- It applies when you’ve paid the trader direct, creating what’s known as a 3-party arrangement
- The full amount doesn’t need to be paid on the credit card
Section 75 applies if the item you purchased has not been delivered, has become faulty or not met the description you were told about. It can be used if the trader has gone out of business.
For more details, check out the UK European Consumer Centre’s website or contact the UK ECC for free advice on your individual circumstances on 01268 886690 Monday-Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm (or email ECCNET-UK@ec.europa.eu)